A probe into the death of a toddler murdered by his mother and her civil partner has found “missed opportunities across services” which could have “potentially prevented” the harm he suffered.
However, the independent review found Liam Fee’s death “could not have been prevented” and his mother and her partner were “manipulative, devious and hindered services”.
Rachel Trelfa and her civil partner Nyomi Fee were jailed for life last July for murdering two-year-old Liam at his home near Glenrothes in March 2014.
He suffered fatal heart injuries similar to those found on road crash victims and had suffered untreated broken bones.
The pair, originally from Tyne and Wear, were also behind a catalogue of cruelty against two other boys in their care, one of whom they tried to blame for Liam’s death. Their trial at the High Court at Livingston heard that various people had raised concerns about Liam’s wellbeing with social services, including staff at his nursery.
The review by Dr Jacqueline Mok on behalf of Fife Child Protection Committee, found: “While the death of Child C (Liam) could not have been predicted, there were missed opportunities across services to intervene.
“This may have led to a better understanding of the treatment of the children living in the home and could potentially have prevented the harm Child C suffered at the hands of his mother and her partner, which subsequently led to his death.”
Liam was “not seen as a child in need of protection” against the backdrop of his mother and her partner’s controlling behaviour, the report stated, with staff lacking professional curiosity as explanations given by Fee and Trelfa were accepted without challenge.
Child protection interventions were instigated after a childminder and nursery staff noticed that Liam had injuries.
The report states: “Had all the concerns been taken into account, the balance of probability would have led to the conclusion that the injuries and concerns were likely to be the result of abuse.”
Twenty recommendations have been made, including considering mandatory child protection training for family doctors and ensuring that all children with concerning injuries are examined by paediatricians.
Alan Small, chair of Fife’s Child Protection Committee, said: “We deeply regret our services did not do more to support Liam and potentially prevent the tragic outcome of this case.”
Social Work Scotland vice-president Jackie Irvine said: “This report will be analysed to make sure we understand how to improve things in our areas too.”
Joanna Barrett, acting head for NSPCC Scotland, said the report’s findings were “highly disturbing”.